One of the unpleasant, albeit relatively favorable, pathological conditions on the part of the external auditory canal is the accumulation of earwax with the formation of sulfur plugs. When a plug forms, hearing decreases, discomfort arises and a doctor’s help and removal of plugs are required.
Earplug is a waxy, yellowish substance that lines the inside of the ear canal. The ear canal is the tube that runs from the outer ear to the eardrum. The wax helps protect the canal from water, infection, injury, and foreign objects. But the too fast and excessive accumulation of earwax can cause problems. This congestion is called an earplug. Special glands in the ear secrete a waxy secretion that, together with dead skin cells, forms earwax. Earwax travels with your slowly growing skin cells. Over time, the earwax moves from the inside of the ear canal to the entrance to the canal. The movement of the jaw also helps the earwax move through the canal.
Several factors can cause problems in the regulation of normal sulfur production. Any blockage in the ear canal can cause problems. Some people may also produce too much earwax. This leads to the fact that it begins to accumulate in the ear canal.
Earwax cannot completely block the ear canal, forming a tight plug. Most people just have a small buildup of earwax that doesn’t cause any symptoms at all.
Earwax plugging is very common. Earwax becomes harder and less mobile with age. Older people are more likely to have problems with excess earwax, which leads to plugs. This can cause symptoms such as hearing loss. Plugs can also interfere with a full examination of the ear.
Causes of a sulfuric plug in the ear in an adult
Earwax build-up occurs when the ear canal cells release earwax faster than the body can remove it. This can happen with many diseases and health conditions, for example:
- bone blockage, narrowing of the ear canal (osteoma or exostosis);
- an infectious disease, such as a swimmer’s ear (otitis externa);
- a skin disorder (such as eczema);
- an autoimmune disease (such as lupus);
- a narrowed ear canal (from birth, due to chronic inflammation or injury);
- too much earwax from trauma.
Some of these conditions cause complete blockage of the ear canal due to plug formation. Others cause the ear to produce more earwax. In some cases, the cause of increased earwax and plugging is unknown.
Foreign objects placed in the ear can also lead to the formation of earwax, especially if done repeatedly. This is more likely in children and young adults who do not have other ear canal problems. For example, if you remove earwax with cotton swabs, you can push it deeper into the canal. Over time, this can cause a complete blockage. Hearing aids, earplugs, and swim caps can have a similar effect with repeated use.
You may be at increased risk if you have a medical condition that can cause increased accumulation of earwax, such as eczema. You may also increase your risk if you continue to put objects in your ear, such as a hearing aid. The elderly and people with thinking (cognitive) problems are also at increased risk.
Symptoms of a sulfur plug in the ear in an adult
Earwax, even when it forms clumps, often does not cause any symptoms, unless too much secretion builds up and a plug forms. The most common symptoms of obstruction of the ear canal with earwax:
- hearing loss;
- a feeling of fullness in the ears;
- itching in the ear;
You may only have 1 or 2 of these symptoms. They often develop slowly. Symptoms of earplugs, especially if the contents become infected, may mimic other conditions or health problems.
An otorhinolaryngologist can diagnose the presence of a plug by taking a history and performing a physical examination. It can include simple hearing tests. The doctor should easily see the wax by looking at your ear through a device called an otoscope. A specialist can diagnose earwax accumulations even if you don’t have any symptoms. For example, you may need a hearing test for another reason. If you have so much earwax that your doctor cannot see your ear canal, they may diagnose a cerumen plug.
How to remove a wax plug in an adult’s ear at home?
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. If there are signs of sulfur congestion, your doctor will recommend treatment.
Treatment options include:
- medicines placed in the ear canal soften the earwax and slowly destroy it;
- irrigation of the ear canal with special solutions that flush out the plugs;
- remove the plug by hand using special tools in the doctor’s office.
Your healthcare provider may recommend one of these options, depending in part on your health condition. You may need a combination of these methods to completely remove. Health professionals do not recommend using any home methods for removing earwax (such as ear candles and ear vacuum kits). Research has shown that these methods don’t work.
What complications can there be with a cerumen plug in the ear?
Complications from the sulfur plug can occur when you try to remove the plug yourself.
First, you can damage the protective layer and injure the very delicate skin of the ear canal. At the same time, various bacteria and fungi immediately penetrate inside, an inflammatory process begins – otitis externa, which, unfortunately, can become chronic and last for years.
Secondly, especially if the sulfuric plug is dense, you can damage the eardrum, even break it, and this is also fraught with serious problems for many years. In addition, when trying to remove sulfur on his own, the patient tamping it tightly in the ear canal, and then the doctor sometimes has to remove it for a long time and painfully (for the patient!). Therefore, the only correct conclusion: if you want to avoid complications, never try to remove the sulfur plug yourself, go straight to the doctor!
When to call a doctor at home (and is it necessary) with a sulfur plug in the ear?
An experienced doctor will easily and quickly remove the sulfur plug. For this, he has special tools, sometimes sulfur is removed by the pressure of water. Of course, it is more convenient to do this in a specially equipped office, it is more difficult if you call a doctor for this at home.
Is it possible to treat a sulfur plug in the ear with traditional remedies?
Folk remedies are too vague a concept. In my practice, more than once there were cases when patients for some reason shoved geranium flowers into their ear, proving that this is a proven traditional remedy, dripping urine (urine therapy!), Which they just did not do!
Now there are very good drops that can easily and painlessly soften the sulfur plug, and then the doctor will easily remove it. But before you drip them, you must make sure that you have a sulfuric plug, and not something else. And only a doctor can do this during the examination.
Therefore, the main advice: if you have discomfort, congestion, ear pain, absolutely nothing can be dripped, you cannot try to “clean it”, it will only get worse! Go to the doctor right away, this will help you quickly and easily cope with your problem!